Bring These Strikeforce Fighters to the UFC (and 1 You Can Send Back)
I believe Strikeforce should be the Triple-A UFC. Why the false competition? Just call it all what it is and start letting the two entities help each other.
Just to seed that conversation a little bit, because I know Dana White and Scott Coker are absolutely reading this, here are 12 fighters on the Strikeforce roster who make sense as UFC entrants.
Admittedly, I made some of these decisions on a gut level. This isn't just a list of the 12 best fighters in Strikeforce. It's guys I thought, for one reason or another, had both fully earned a shot in MMA's major league and made sense for the promotion in a matchup and/or marketability context. So maybe call them the 12 most UFC-ready "properties" in Strikeforce.
As a delightful added bonus, I've also included one Strikeforce alum you can ship back. Go ahead...guess who it is.
Dishonorable Mention: Send Alistair Overeem Back to Strikeforce
If Strikeforce wants an elite fighter, here they go.
Seriously. There is recent and comparable precedent in American pro sports for using a demotion punitively. And of course, baseball's been doing it to some extent for decades.
So to me, this checks off a lot of boxes. Make an example of a championship-caliber fighter who, whenever he returns to action, will have a good amount to prove, not only in terms of overall urine cleanliness but in terms of his understanding that rules do, in fact, apply to him, and that violations of said rules do, indeed, have consequences.
12. Lorenz Larkin
Photo credit: MMAMania
Record: 12-0 (1)
Class: Light heavyweight
Luckily for Larkin, his record was de-blemished in January when people found out "King Mo" Lawal peed a cup on fire before their fight.
11. Bobby Voelker
Photo credit: MMA Junkie
He's won seven of his last nine, and just came out on the winning side of a trilogy with up-and-coming Roger Bowling. He did just re-up with Strikeforce last fall, but who knows whether that means anything or nothing. He's earned a chance to try his hand in the big show.
10. Joe Duarte
Photo credit: Strikeforce
Weight class: Lightweight
He's 5-1 since the immortal Phillipe Nover choked him out on The Ultimate Fighter 8. He'd be near the very bottom of a very deep division, but he's a threat in every phase. I'd definitely watch him fight the loser between Anthony Njokuani and John Makdessi, who fight on the UFC 145 card.
(Photo h/t: Strikeforce)
9. Gegard Mousasi
Photo credit: MMA Weekly
Class: Heavyweight/Light heavyweight
Hard to believe he's still just 26. And now the Dream light heavyweight champ seems to be getting serious about training, which is bad news for opponents. I was excited about his fight with Mike Kyle, which was scheduled for March but was then delayed after Kyle got hurt.
8. Derek Brunson
Photo credit: TomSapp.com
Weight class: Middleweight
An All-American college wrestler. A Greg Jackson trainee. A Renzo Gracie jiu-jitsu player. Five of nine wins due to strikes. Twenty-five thousand Twitter followers.
This guy is not only undefeated (and now 3-0 in Strikeforce), but he's only gone out of the first round twice.
He was scheduled to face Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza this winter but hit a slight bump in the road. Whether it's against Jacare or someone in the UFC, I'd say this guy needs a bump up in competition.
7. Sergei Kharitonov
Photo credit: Susumu
Look up "grizzled veteran" in the dictionary and you've got the Russian.
In his nearly 12-year career, he's had several good battles with guys like Fabricio Werdum (w), Mike Russow (w) and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (l), and one great war, with one Alistair Overeem (a split so far).
Ten of his wins have come by T/KO. Let him put those ice blocks to work in the UFC, where he has never competed. Yeah, he lost to Josh Barnett, but he could still help flesh out a fairly thin division.
6. Tyron Woodley
Photo credit: Tracy Lee for Yahoo! Sports
5. Ronaldo Souza
Photo credit: AP vis Cage Today
Record: 15-3 (1)
One of the sport's best submission artists, the extremely popular Strikeforce ex-champ plugs directly into the upper reaches of his division, regardless of promotion.
4. Nate Marquardt
Photo credit: MMA Frenzy
As you may be aware, he's had a strange run of late. But the ever-popular Marquardt's return to the UFC—and Dana White's stance appears to be softening on this front—would be an instant infusion of good vibes for the promotion. His possibly upcoming bout with Woodley could be a pivotal moment for both fighters' careers.
3. Daniel Cormier
Win or lose the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, I say bring him over. Either way, he's ready, I believe, for a big-time shot.
2. Josh Barnett
See previous slide. I know it's a liiiittle more complicated, but I'd still like to see it.
1. Gilbert Melendez
It seems the last thing the UFC needs is a bigger clustermuck atop the lightweight division. Nevertheless, it feels insufficiently clustery without Melendez.
I know at least one person agrees with me: Melendez training partner and fellow lightweight Nate Diaz. I mean, I guess that's not a shock, but still. It's clear he should be there.